Shop, cook and store to avoid food waste

The average Australian household throws away 345kg of food waste each year. Don't worry if you're confronted by food waste facts, there's three great ways you can help.

Shopping right Cooking root to stem Storing tight

Shopping right

  • Plan your weekly meals and snacks, aiming to use hardier vegetables (like potato and carrots) later in the week, so you can use up other, fresh veggies earlier.
  • Shop with a list and buy only what you need. Specials are a great way to save money but try not to buy more than you can use, otherwise it may become food waste.
  • Eating seasonally boosts the variety of veg you consume throughout  the year and will challenge you to experiment with vegetables you may not usually use.
  • Choose locally and in season veg. This uses less resources to grow and transport. And they’re likely to be more affordable and you’re also supporting a local economy.
  • Eating seasonally boosts the variety of veg you consume thought the year and will challenge you to experiment with vegetables you may not be used to.
  • Look for ‘ugly’ and ‘imperfect’ veg that others might turn away from. They can often be cheaper, but they are just as nutritious, just as tasty and not contributing to landfill.

Cooking ‘root to stem’

  • Eating the parts of vegetables that you usually throw out, like skins, stalks and leaves, means you’re eating more nutritious veg, and stopping it from contributing to landfill. It’s called ‘root to stem’ cooking!
  • Skins/peels: Vegetable skins contain fibre, vitamins and minerals. Rinsing vegetables like carrots, potatoes and mushrooms, instead of peeling them, means you keep more of those important nutrients in your body, and out of the bin.
  • Broccoli & kale stems: Slice broccoli stems and add them to a stir fry (with the florets) or use them in a soup, stew or as a side dish. Create a fibre-rich soup by simmering broccoli and kale stems with onion, carrots, and celery until soft, blitz with a blender, season, and top with a sprinkle of cheese.
  • Greens & tops: Beet greens, radish greens, turnip greens, carrot tops. Cook these leafy greens on their own or blend them into a delicious pesto.
  • Stems of dark leafy greens: After you strip the leaves off dark leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard or collards, use the stems for cooking or juice them.
  • Use up ageing & wrinkly veg: Don't be afraid of wrinkly veg that has been sitting in the fridge for a while. Most recipes that use fresh veg will work well with slightly softer veg, but you can also transform them into something delicious, with these creative ideas:
  • Recipes: Have some ‘anything goes’ recipes up your sleeve. Give your ageing veg a second life by adding them to soups, frittatas or savoury muffins. Just add a few handfuls of chopped leftover vegetables to create delicious and colourful new meals or snacks. Plus they freeze well and can be added to the kids’ lunchbox or taken to work.
  • Bake or roast: Vegetables that have gone a little soft are perfect for baking, roasting or grilling, as the texture just gets better, while the flavours transform as they caramelise. Zucchini, capsicum and eggplant and carrot are excellent candidates.
  • Scraps for stock: Use scraps for a vegetable stock. Keep a container in your freezer with veggie scraps to make a tasty stock. Onion and garlic ends, carrot and celery ends, vegetable peelings, mushroom stems, leftover herbs, zucchini ends – use it all! When your bag is full, put the contents into a pot with water to make stock.
  • Learn to preserve: Canning, fermenting, freezing and dehydrating are just a few of the preservation methods that can help your food last longer and reduce food waste. Or fill a jar of left over pickle juice with other vegetables such as carrot sticks and red onion.

Storing tight

  • Dark leafy greens: Wash before storing by soaking in cold water to remove the dirt, then drain. Store in the fridge in a water-draining container. Do not spin until ready to use as this will damage the cell wall and cause it to go off faster. You can put your greens that have long stems, like kale, Swiss chard and collard greens in a mason jar with water – just like putting flowers in a vase. Cover the greens with a bag and secure with a twist tie or rubber band.
  • Broccoli & cauliflower: Store these in an airtight container in the fridge. Wash just before using.
  • Carrots: Remove the tops first, as that draws moisture from the carrots. Cut to size and store in a bowl of water or glass container. Change water every 3–4 days.
  • Celery: Cut to size and store in a bowl of water or glass container. Change water every 3–4 days. You can also freeze ends of celery, carrots onions and other veggies for soup stocks.
  • Cucumber and Zucchini: Store in your crisper. Too much moisture will cause spoilage.
  • Capsicum: Store in warmer parts of the fridge: Towards the door and out of the produce bins, which tend to be cooler. These can be cut to size and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3–4 days.
  • Mixed: Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, corn, carrots, spinach freeze well, so if you think you won’t get to use them before they take a turn for the worst, chop them up and pop them in a freezer bag or container to freeze. Grab and handful whenever you need to add veggies to your next pasta sauce, curry or soup.
  • Herbs: Chopped herbs, and add them an ice cube tray with some extra virgin olive oil. Freeze then store in a freezer bag to add to meals for a burst of fresh and flavour.

These tips and more are available from Nutrition Australia at tryfor5.org.au